A clear view

As I’ve said before, the semester is coming to an end. However, lessons are still going at full pace, despite the general winding-down feeling which is starting to percolate through. In our Spoken Japanese classes my strategy is to find a seat which gives me a clear view of the tall Australian girl with long, flowing dark hair and drift … right … off. Doubly effective as it saves me from having to listen to our dangerously incompetent teacher.

My project for Issues in Contemporary Japanese Society and Culture (and if it’s boring to read that, imagine how tired I get saying it) took a step forward yesterday, when I got to interview a zainichi student and talk about her experience, particularly with the parallel Korean edcuation system in Japan, and sense of identity. It was very interesting stuff, and gives me an idea of where I should take my final paper. Doing the interview itself was actually kind of tough, as not only was it a little awkward at first to sit down with someone you don’t know, but will subsequently see around campus, and ask them a lot of profound questions, but because I had to keep an eye on myself.

I was trying to keep my questions impartial, as I didn’t want to skew her answers through my own opinions. It’s harder to do than I thought. Because this project is a work of sociology, having an impartial view is crucial. But it’s also something I want to cultivate for myself. From asking non-loaded questions to knowing when to listen, I’ve done a lot of learning this year, and I know I still have a lot to learn. Coming to a person or situation without prejudice helps you understand them better, and gives you a clearer view of the world.

Example: I had the privilege of performing another takedown on a bad Issues presentation today. The student in question was doing their presentation on Christianity in Japan, and was coming at it from an obvious bias. She opened with an account of a meeting at the Japanese church she attended, and used that for a lot of her field research cited. She ended with questions implying that Japanese needed to “fill the void” in their hearts, and that Japan was a country where religious belief was invisible. Uh, yeah, right.

I wouldn’t have minded if she’d declared her interest at the beginning. We all have our hooks to twist on (my strong atheism played a part in prompting my response), and as long as you’re prepared to acknowledge it, that’s fine. Either be honest with yourself, or shut up. That’s a clear view, of sorts.


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